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Governed by the Spirit

Posted: March 19, 2010 by Andrew McIntyre in Pneumatology, Theology
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Galatians 5:25 reads: εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν.  It is variously translated:

  • “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (NASB)
  • “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (NIV)
  • “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (NRSV)
  • “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (NLT)

But my favorite rendering is by F. F. Bruce in his Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul: “So then, if our principle of life is the Spirit, let our behavior also be governed by the Spirit.”

This is what makes Christianity unique.  The Christian life is not the exercise of a new religion, it is the outgrowth of being governed by the Holy Spirit.  The extent to which we experience the fullness of “Christ living in us” (Gal. 2:20) is determined by the extent to which we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us.  That’s why Jesus stressed the coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples.  That’s why it is so important that the Church stress “life in the Spirit” from the moment that life in the Spirit begins – at conversion.  Note how F. F. Bruce translates Galatians 5:16:

“What I want to emphasize is this: live continually in the power of the Spirit, and you will not carry out the cravings of your old nature.”

That should be our consistent and constant focus – “Live continually in the power of the Spirit.”  Living continually in the power of the Spirit, being governed by the Spirit, is the Christian life.  And, if we stay in step with Him, he will lead us into all that life in Christ entails and equip us with every experience and gift that living that life “to the full” requires.

Remember, since the origin of your Christian life is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit, the continuation of your Christian life will be the result of the same.  Let Him govern your behavior.

Thank you for the welcome to Endued.  I look forward to the dialogue and the fellowship!

To begin, I though it might be good to take a moment to explain why I am no longer an Assemblies of God minister.  The resignation of my ordination in the A/G came at the end of a long spiritual journey (some people take longer than others!).  My struggle with the “distinctive” doctrine of the A/G started in a theology course in college, and though I often tried to move it to the back burner, God would always bring it back to the forefront via friends, acquaintances, books, magazines and lots of serendipity (e.g. finding files left by former pastors).  I finally came to the place where I could no longer support the “distinctive” doctrine from my understanding of Scripture.  While I had hoped to remain in the A/G, hoping to find that a passion for Scriptural truth and theological integrity would foster a lively dialogue of a doctrine that I felt should be held with humility and openness, especially in light of Church history and the theology of the larger Body of Christ, that was not to be.  Through the preaching of Thomas Trask, it was made abundantly clear that such dialogue would not be tolerated.  Because I respected the A/G’s right to make such a decision, and because I felt that my own spiritual journey was just that – my own, I resigned my ordination.  I should quickly add two things:  1) I have no axe to grind with the A/G, and 2) I remain overwhelmed and overjoyed by God’s gracious leading in my life.

As an aside, I also want to share that the one book that was instrumental in my spiritual journey was James D. G. Dunn’s Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  I will always be grateful to the A/G professor who patiently listened to my spiritual struggle and recommended I read this book!  While I realize that not everyone will agree with all of Dunn’s exegetical conclusions, I do think that this is one book that everyone interested in this area of theology should read.  And, so people know a little about my presuppositions, I find that I am in total agreement with Dunn’s objectives for his book:

I hope to show that for the writers of the NT the baptism in or gift of the Spirit was part of the event (or process) of becoming a Christian, together with the effective proclamation of the Gospel, belief in (eis) Jesus as Lord, and water-baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus; that it was the chief element in conversion-initiation so that only those who had thus received the Spirit could be called Christians; that the reception of the Spirit was a very definite and often dramatic experience, the decisive and climactic experience in conversion-initiation, to which the Christian was usually recalled when reminded of the beginning of his Christian faith and experience.  We shall see that while the Pentecostal’s belief in the dynamic and experiential nature of Spirit-baptism is well founded, his separation of it from conversion-initiation is wholly unjustified; and that, conversely, while water-baptism is an important element in the complex of conversion-initiation, it is neither to be equated or confused with Spirit-baptism nor to be given the most prominent part in that complex event.  The high point in conversion-initiation is the gift of the Spirit, and the beginning of the Christian life is to be reckoned from the experience of Spirit-baptism.  (James D. G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, p. 4)

Again, thanks for welcoming me to Endued.  May my participation bring glory to Christ and benefit to his body.